Sanitary Products

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th March 2018.

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Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body whether it plans to make sanitary products freely available in the Parliament for staff and visitors. (S5O-01875)

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

I commend Monica Lennon for her work in this area and recognise that today is the day that she has published the results of the first stage of her consultation on the issue.

The Parliament is committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity, including women who are experiencing menstruation or the menopause in the workplace and beyond. We are aware of the excellent work already being carried out by the Parliament’s women’s network. They recently launched an initiative providing honesty boxes stocked with free sanitary products in the Parliament’s toilets. Those have proven to be very popular, as Monica Lennon will be aware. That initiative relies on the good will of staff and other users of the building to replace the products.

While the SPCB recognises the success of that initiative, the women’s network is now making recommendations to the Parliament’s diversity and inclusion board about the future provision of that service. The SPCB is waiting to see the outcome of that process before it revisits the matter and takes any further decisions about the project’s future.

Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I thank Kezia Dugdale for her response. Period poverty and access to sanitary products have been raised many times in this Parliament. As Kezia Dugdale said, today I lodged my proposal for a bill to establish a legal right to access sanitary products for everyone in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament women’s network has done an excellent job of improving access to sanitary products for parliamentary staff, with the launch of the honesty box scheme last year.

The corporate body has responded well to other public campaigns, such as the recent campaign on reducing the use of plastic straws. Does the member agree that the corporate body has an obligation to demonstrate leadership on access to sanitary products? Will the corporate body welcome the honesty box scheme and advise whether work has been carried out to cost the provision of sanitary products, so that the Parliament can meet the needs of staff who menstruate or experience the menopause?

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

It is fair to say that we are examining the issue closely and considering what might happen next. However, we do not want to pre-empt any recommendations that the women’s network might make.

We have looked at the cost. The initial cost of establishing the boxes around the building was £550, and we have worked out that the annual cost of the service would be about £2,400. Such costs are well within what is feasible in extending the approach so that the Parliament is the main provider of the service. However, we will take the decision when we have done more work and consultation with the women’s network. I am sure that the member respects that as the right and proper way to go about it.